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State Legislative Initiatives

As evidenced by the growing number of lab scandals, including those in San Francisco, New York, and North Carolina, reform is urgently needed to ensure quality work is being conducted in our nation’s crime labs and that the results of that work are reliably presented in the courts.  The 2009 report of the National Academy of Sciences, Strengthening Forensic Science in the United States: A Path Forward identifies deficiencies with forensic evidence and sets forth a roadmap for reform.  NACDL Principles and Recommendations to Strengthen Forensic Evidence and Its Presentation in the Courtroom, adopted in February 2010, builds upon the NAS report and sets forth additional recommendations that should be adopted by federal and state authorities to ensure the integrity of the criminal justice system.
In 2007, the Washington State Bar identified problems within Washington’s crime lab.  Many labs including Washington’s receive federal grants for its crime labs and as such, are required to have an independent body oversee the labs and investigate any problems.  The Bar joined forces with the Washington Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers (WACDL), to pass SSB 6340, which provides for a defense bar seat on Washington’s Forensic Investigations Council (FIC).  Efforts to also add an independent scientist were unsuccessful largely due to budget concerns, and the Bar/WACDL task force expects to work toward that goal in future sessions.
North Carolina
SB40, “Forensic Sciences Act” 
Summary:  Creates the North Carolina Forensic Science Advisory Board. The bill is designed to encourage efforts (through grants and research) to eliminate human error in forensic examinations, require certification of forensic science professionals, rename the state bureau of investigation laboratory as the North Carolina State Crime Laboratory, creates the position of ombudsman to ensure that the best forensic processes and procedures are utilized in the lab, clarify statutes that allow for admissibility of forensic analyses into evidence, clarify state’s obligation to disclose information to the defendant relating to testing or examination of evidence (upon defendant’s request), clarify that state crime lab personnel serve the public and criminal justice system. The Advisory board will be housed within the Department of Justice. It will have 16 members including the Director. The bill further outlines specific types of scientists who will be involved as well as frequency of meetings, terms, expenses, functions and a review process. 
Summary: This is the final report of the results of an independent review of the activities and
performance of the Forensic Biology Section1 of the State Bureau of Investigation (SBI)
Crime Laboratory commissioned by the North Carolina Attorney General
Summary: This memo provides a response regarding a report of the NC Ombudsman of the NC Crime Lab; included in this report is a response from the SBI
For more information on pending legislation please contact Monica at mreid@nacdl.org or (202) 465-7660
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